Follow TV Tropes


Humble Goal

Go To

"Every character should want something, even if it is only a glass of water."
Kurt Vonnegut, Rules for writing a short story

Our character — be it a hero, a villain, or somewhere in between — has a dream. An overarching Goal in Life that motivates him to get up in the morning, keep going when things get tough, keeps him from losing his mind when horrors come calling, and overall drives the plot forward.

However, it's nothing as ambitious as world domination, the creation of a utopia, or true love. It's something like a twinkie, a tuna sandwich, or a rug.

It's Mundane Luxury if they get their wish, or a Tragic Dream if they don't.

Not to be confused with Mundane Wish; in a Mundane Wish, the character is offered anything he wants by a person of power, and chooses something simple. The humble goal is an aspiration internalized by the character, but he has to make it happen by himself.

A Super-Trope of Call to Agriculture, where a powerful character only wants to be a farmer. Often the goal of an Action Survivor whose main goal is surviving so he can get back to his ordinary life. Compare Mundane Luxury, which is often the motivation behind this. Particularly common in stories where the characters or characters are stranded somewhere and just want to get home. Characters who hear this goal, especially if the road to get it has become complete pandemonium, may probably end up becoming Disappointed by the Motive.


    open/close all folders 

  • Many commercials, especially cereal commercials, feature characters and mascots whose sole goal in life is to get whatever product is being advertised. These characters are often willing to go to ridiculous lengths to get these products. Most of the time, it comes off cheesy, but when done right, as in this Coca-Cola ad, it works.
    • When done wrong, we get the Trix rabbit, who is a Villainy-Free Villain who just wants a bowl of Trix cereal. Even when he legitimately earns it, he still gets it taken away, because "Trix are for kids." The one time Trix offered a poll to see if he should get it, over eighty percent of the votes wanted the rabbit to finally have some Trix. And for once, he got it.

    Anime & Manga 
  • Attack on Titan: In a flashback, Armin finds an old book in his grandfather's library, describing places like a "land of fire", deserts, and large bodies of saltwater. Although Eren initially expressed doubt that these places really existed, it served to motivate Armin into exploring the world beyond the walls, which Eren came to support him in.
  • Bakuman。: Ogawa and Kato — in contrast to most of the other assistants who are fleshed out as characters — are satisfied with being assistants and do not even attempt to get serialized.
  • Chainsaw Man deals with these as a major theme.
    • Denji's life of extreme poverty leaves him with extremely simple goals, as mundane as going on a date, touching boobs, or getting to have jam on his toast.
    • The goal of the legendary strongest Devil, the "Hero of Hell"? Chainsaw/Pochita simply wanted to be hugged. After being mortally-wounded and forced into the form of Pochita, he was able to finally achieve his dream by meeting Denji.
    • The Control Devil, one of the Horsemen of the Apocalypse, has a surprisingly mundane true goal. Pochita explains that at her core, Control longed to have a personal connection not based around enslaving others. Her inherent nature and powers made it impossible, until Denji killed Makima and erased her from existence. The reborn Control, as a child, is entrusted to Denji with the hope that he can fulfill her wish.
  • Digimon Adventure 02: Daisuke/Davis just wants to run a ramen cart. The Distant Epilogue shows he achieves his goal.
  • Excel♡Saga: Il Pallazzo, the would-be ruler of the world, has scaled-down his ambitions to simply taking over a single city so that he can eventually broaden his horizons to the prefecture and then Japan and so on. He later says to someone on the phone that "just wishing to 'rule the world' is a childish fantasy for simplistic morons."
  • Fate/Apocrypha:
    • There are a lot of epic and/or self-destructive wishes that people want to make on the Holy Grail. Fiore's is simple: She wants her legs fixed. To be more specific, she wants her legs fixed while remaining a mage; her family has the ability to heal her without the Grail, but the process would ruin her magic circuits and leave her unable to use magecraft.
    • Mordred's wish initially sounds like yet another example of "epic and/or self-destructive" wishes: She wants to go back in time and receive a chance to draw the sword from the stone and become king. But the reason she wants to do this is that she wants to take some of the burden from her father, King Arthur, as she realized how terrible being king was. The fact that she chose such a roundabout wish and didn't explain it properly is a sign of her immaturity.
  • Food Wars!: Soma Yukihira zigzags on this. On one hand, his goal in life as a chef is to carry on the family business, which is running a small restaurant in a middle-class district. On the other, before he does so, he wants to surpass his father, who is a world-famous chef, by becoming the top student in the prestigious Tootsuki Institute, an elite culinary academy notorious for a graduation rate of 1%.
  • Fruits Basket: Ritsu's goal is to eat noodles with the same confidence that Ayame does.
  • Gintama: One chapter plays it for laughs by making the protagonist get dragged across a lot of trouble (good vs. evil, mobs, gangster...) because his fan broke and he was trying to replace it.
  • Hayate the Combat Butler: Hayate's life goal is to have a small apartment with the necessary amenities and nobody chasing him. It is in fact so humble, that when he reveals this goal in grade school it drives his teacher to tears. When he gave his report he didn't even list the last bit, just the small apartment (a 3LDK). After seeing his teacher's reaction the poor guy thought he aimed too high...
  • Heaven's Lost Property: All Sakurai Tomoki really asks for is having a peaceful and normal life. Unfortunately for him, The Plot had different plans for him. Hilarious plans.
  • MARRIAGETOXIN: Piichi Nakagawa is a Serial-Killer Killer in a killing spree of murdering a lot of specialists, including slaughtering almost all major representatives of the Beast Clan assassins. Said killing spree comes from a desire to make the world around him more peaceful, so he can achieve his dream of opening a café with his girlfriend.
  • Miss Kobayashi's Dragon Maid: The bandit girl from chapter 28 dreamed of becoming a maid. The Stinger at the end of the chapter reveals that she got her wish.
  • Nana: Misato states that her purpose in life is being a blast groupie.
  • Naruto: Shikamaru just wants to be an ordinary ninja who marries an average girl, having a son and a daughter, and eventually retiring to play Shogi and Go all day after his son is a ninja and his daughter is married. Unfortunately for him, the various circumstances he encounters force him to improve his skills, put himself at risk, and challenge himself in order to survive. He does partially achieve his goals, being married to Temari and having a son Shikadai. However, he also ends up becoming an advisor to Naruto, who achieves his dream of becoming Hokage. He even compares it to how the more pragmatic and intelligent Second Hokage helped out the First Hokage.
  • One Piece: For all their power and infamy, three of the Four Emperors have startlingly humble goals:
    • Whitebeard assembled a massive fleet out of nothing more than a simple desire for a family.
    • Charlotte Linlin's dream of creating a country for herself is rooted in a wish to relive a happy birthday she had as a child.
    • Kaido's desire to start a massive world war is actually a glorified suicide attempt since he's so bored with life that he just wants to die but hasn't managed to figure out how due to his incredible durability.
    • There's also Brook of the Straw Hat crew. While the others have big dreams of being Pirate King, the worlds best swordsman, curing all disease, being a brave warrior, mapping out the whole world's oceans, discovering the secret past of the world and going to a legendary sea, his goal is to just see his friend Laboon again.
  • Pani Poni Dash!: Ichijo claims her ultimate desire is to be a domestic kind of woman, like her mother. This is probably the most ordinary anything she ever did in the show.
  • UQ Holder!: Main character Touta's big dream is to ascend to the top of the space elevator. This perplexes most other characters... while it is a bit expensive, getting up there only requires purchasing a ticket.

    Comic Books 
  • In the Astro City story "Things Past", the mastermind who's been committing crimes using the gear from retired supervillians did so simply because he wanted to play with his nifty toys.
  • Fables:
    • In the spinoff Fairest, during Lumi's (aka. the Snow Queen) battle with Hadeon the Destroyer, she admits that her current goal in life is to simply live her own life with a possible romance with a roguish fellow. When asked why she has no dreams bigger than her "selfish needs," she retorts that as a woman who spent years trying to fulfill great and ambitious things, she's rather cynical of lofty goals, and wonders if maybe small dreams are the best kind to have.
    • Boy Blue is a veteran of countless battles in a Hopeless War and his Roaring Rampage of Rescue through the homelands gets him described in-universe as the sort of guy Errol Flynn only pretended to be in his films. The only problem is, while being a survivor from countless massacres may be testament to his badassery, it leaves him suffering from terrible Survivor's Guilt from all the countless comrades he's watched die, and as such, all he really wants to be is a functionary in some boring office job for the rest of his eternal life, with finally not having a romantic attachment blow up in his face being a nice bonus. When dying, he specifically requests that he not be buried among the soldiers, because he'd prefer to be remembered as a clerk and musician rather than a world-class badass. After meeting and giving reassurance to the not-quite-dead Bigby in limbo, Blue says that it looks like his own personal heaven will, in fact, be something totally unremarkable that will fulfill his wish at long last.
  • Ultimate Wolverine: Jimmy makes a detour and takes many risks, just to have a brief look at his parents from afar one last time.
  • In Bat Lash's first appearance, all he wants is to make a nice meal of the pheasant he shot, but as he's shopping for ingredients, the bandits that took over town keep harassing him.
  • Wonder Woman Vol 1: During the Golden Age Steve Trevor's ultimate desire in life is to settle down and marry the woman he loves. He joined the Army because it was the right thing to do, and his intended goal becomes much more difficult when he falls in love with and starts dating Wonder Woman, since as the Amazon champion she cannot get married (save for a couple of loopholes) until her mission is over and that mission will never be over so long as there are people in need of rescuing in the world.
  • Spider-Men II: Wilson Fisk and the adult Miles Morales have deposed Don Rigoletto and replaced him at the top of the mafia. Fisk wants to go on being the Kingpin of crime, but not Miles: he wants to simply take his earnings, take Barbara and have a simple life out of crime from then on. He fears that once you get in that lifestyle you can never leave it, but fortunately he has Wilson Fisk to help him do that.
  • When Eclipso tries to brainwash Blue Beetle by transforming him into his darkest power fantasy, she's perplexed when said power fantasy turns out to be him as a dentist. Keep in mind that he's a teenage boy with an alien killing machine grafted onto his back. As Jaime puts it, dentists earn good money which he can use to help his parents, put his little sister through college, and maybe get a vacation place close to where his grandma lives.

    Comic Strips 
  • Calvin and Hobbes:
    • Hobbes's wish is to have a sandwich. He achieves it. This is contrasted with Calvin, whose more extravagant wish for "a trillion billion dollars, my own space shuttle, and a private continent" goes unfulfilled.
    • In another strip, Calvin asks Hobbes what he wants right now more than anything else. Hobbes' answer: "A big sunny field to lie in." Calvin berates him for his lack of ambition and imagination, then looks at the blissfully snoozing tiger and says, "Actually, it's hard to argue with someone who looks so happy."

    Fan Works 
  • In the Code Geass fanfic Six Paths of Rebellion, besides wanting to free Japan, Tamaki admits he always dreamed of being a bureaucrat. The other Black Knights are noticeably surprised that a hothead like him had such a mundane dream job.
  • In the Dragon Age: Inquisition fanfic Walking in Circles, Solas's main goal is to restore his people's former glory and freedom which is definitely not a small wish, but for himself, all he wants is just a quiet, simple life with Evelyn.
  • A Diplomatic Visit: As revealed in the epilogue of the third story, Diplomacy Through Schooling, Prince Caplan of Laronda is happy to let his older brother take the throne. His own goal is to be a teacher, which he's achieved and is quite satisfied with.
  • In The Saga Of Tanya The Firebender, True to Tanyas' beliefs as a Capitalist and as a reincarnated Salaryman, she confides in Zuko that if she was offered any other choice of profession besides signing up for the Fire Nations' Army and leading forces into battle in order for her to prosper in this world: she would become a Merchant.
    Tanya: "It would be a much more efficient use of human resources to run an organization that aims to make and sell useful products to the world, rather than throw people against enemy spears. And with all the colonies we've created, the opportunities for a new, golden era of businesses is limitless! If you think my military strategies are good, just wait and see my marketing strategies! I'd be the richest woman in the world within a decade!"

    Films — Animation 
  • The Book of Life: All Manolo wants is to live his life as a musician.
  • Ice Age: Scrat wants nothing more than to enjoy his acorn in peace.
  • Spoofed in one of the adaptations of Pippi Longstocking. The pair of thieves who serve as the villains sing a song about how all they really want is an English bowler hat and a gold tooth respectively. But then they start talking about all the things they'll be enjoying after they get their items, such as yachts, cars, and having lunch with royalty.
  • Tangled: All Rapunzel wants for most of the film is to leave her tower long enough to see the floating lanterns that show up every year on her birthday up close. On the journey to do so, she starts to realize there are other things she wants to experience, but her immediate goal doesn't change until (a) she actually achieves this one and (b) circumstances change to give her more pressing concerns.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Americana (1981): All the main character seems to want is to repair an abandoned merry-go-round in some small town in the middle of nowhere. Why he sets such a goal for himself is for the movie viewers to figure out.
  • Avengers: Age of Ultron: Tony Stark reveals that he wants "the fight to end" and to retire to a peaceful life on a farm with Pepper. There are hints of Tragic Dream as Tony's Chronic Hero Syndrome constantly clashes with this wish. In Avengers: Endgame, he does manage to retire and build a family before going on One Last Job.
  • The Big Lebowski: "All The Dude wanted was his rug back."
  • Big Trouble in Little China: Jack Burton has very little invested in the plot. His truck has been stolen, and he wants it back, but that's it. It's clear that he's risking life and limb mostly because he sees himself as a lantern-jawed hero who helps his friends and defeats the bad guys.
  • In Carry On Admiral (1957) (no relation to the Carry On films), all the nameless man wants is his clothes back.
  • City Hunter: Jackie Chan's character is hungry.note  To the point of beating senseless the terrorist who stepped on a piece of bread. His last wish before the execution is to eat.note 
  • Dude, Where's My Car?: All Jesse and Chester want is to find their car and get the birthday presents for their girlfriends inside.
  • Extract: All Step really wanted, from the beginning, was to be promoted to floor manager. After he's injured and manipulated into a massive lawsuit that could bankrupt the company, he admits that he'd rather just go back to work... as long as he gets to be floor manager.
  • Fanboys: The main characters' goal is to see Star Wars: The Phantom Menace before it hits theaters. Only one of them does. And it's because he wouldn't live to see it in theaters. The rest of the group have to wait until it hits theaters. The movie ends with the line: "What if the movie sucks?"
  • Similarly Lucas from French comedy Les Fugitifs and its remake Three Fugitives just got out of jail and wants to pawn his gold watch and become an honest locksmith. He succeeds by the middle of the movie, only to abandon his quiet life to save Jeanne/Meg.
  • Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle. The entire goal is there in the title. No matter how bad the night gets, they never give up on their goal.
    "Our parents came to this country, fleeing poverty, oppression, and hunger. Hunger! They were very, very hungry! And they dreamed of a land, filled with hamburger restaurants. And not just one type of hamburger, but hundreds of types, with different sizes, toppings, and condiments. That land was America. America, Harold! America. Now, this is about achieving what our parents set out for. This is about the pursuit of happiness. This night... is about The American Dream."
  • Hudson Hawk: The title character really just wants to get an honest job and a cappuccino. Getting dragged into other people's plots keeps preventing either.
  • The Hunt for Red October: Vasily Borodin, Red October's executive officer, a man who has risen pretty much as far as is possible in the Soviet Navy, dreams of settling in rural Montana, raising rabbits, marrying a chubby Midwestern woman with a good rabbit stew recipe and owning an RV so he can drive from state to state and live in Arizona during the winter.
  • Ice Cold in Alex: The title of the WWII drama comes from Captain Anson's yearning for a cold beer. To get it, he and his party have survived an arduous journey across the North African desert after being separated from their unit and reach Alexandria alive. Of course, this is of the "focus on something tangible to get through the horror" variety, as they'd have to cross the desert either way.
  • Jason's Lyric: All Lyric wants is to just ride on a bus, running away.
  • Mad Max: Fury Road:
    • All Nux wants is to drive the War Rig, the biggest and most impressive machine in all the wastelands. While normally the Rig is driven by the Imperator, one of Immortan Joe's top generals, Nux doesn't really want the rank or status that comes with it—he just wants to drive the Rig. At the end of the film he is allowed to drive the War Rig against Joe's forces as part of a distraction, and then crashes it in a Heroic Sacrifice.
    • Also, Max himself just wants his car and his jacket back so that he can leave.
      Nux: You can ask for more than a jacket!
  • Memoirs of an Invisible Man tagline: "Women want him for his wit. The C.I.A. wants him for his body. All Nick wants is his molecules back."
  • Midnight Run: Jack takes the eponymous job because it will finally make him enough money to give up bounty hunting and start a little coffee shop. He has to run a gauntlet involving organized crime, old vendettas, the FBI and rival bounty hunters, but the coffee shop is his ultimate prize. In the end, Mardukas gives him enough money to get it.
  • Mister Roberts: All that the eponymous Navy officer wants, more than anything, is to get reassigned to a front-line ship (because the boredom is killing him). It is a whole lot more epic a trip to get this done than it should be (courtesy of his tyrannical captain) and, quite tragically, leads to his death, mere weeks before World War II truly ends.
  • In Orson Welles's Mr. Arkadin, all Jakob Zouk wants — and all he was dreaming of in his years in prison — was a dish of goose liver with apples and onions. He gets killed before he can have it.
  • Ophelia: Ophelia has little interest in the power struggles of the Danish court unless she or her loved ones are potentially caught in the crossfire. Her interest in Hamlet is also not because he's a prince and the potential heir to the throne, but is instead based upon genuine love for him as a person. When Hamlet is passed over as king and suggests they start a new life elsewhere together she's enthusiastic, wanting only to live a peaceful life with someone who loves her and where she's free to be herself. She gets her wish in the end, though sadly without Hamlet and most of her other family members.
  • Payback: Porter takes on the city's entire underworld to retrieve his $70,000 cut of stolen heist money. Though $70K isn't insignificant, it's peanuts to the people he's fighting against, with one mob boss complaining that the suits Porter had shot up were worth more than that. Just about everyone he encounters reacts with disbelief that he'd go to war with the mob over such a paltry amount.
  • Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl: Captain Barbossa may have many goals, but what he really wants is to taste an apple again.
  • In the original The Santa Clause movie, the reason Neil, Scott Calvin's ex-wife's new husband, says he stopped believing in Santa Claus at age 3: He wanted an Oscar Meyer Weenie Whistle in his stocking, and never got it. At the end, when Scott/Santa is flying overhead, Neil finally gets his gift.
  • Star Wars: In the Expanded Universe, it's been shown that all Luke Skywalker ever really wanted was a wife and family of his own.
  • The Terminal: Victor Navorski just wants to get into New York to complete the autograph set of his father's favorite jazz musicians.
  • The White Balloon: Young protagonist Razieh just wants to have a pretty and fat goldfish for the New Year.
  • The World's End: Gary King just wants to finish the Golden Mile pub crawl. It's taken to the point of psychotic obsession. Although it ends up taking on a darker note: he wants this because he's suicidal and it's the only thing he feels he has left.
  • Zombieland: Tallahassee's Twinkie obsession. Though it's revealed that he's obsessing with this in order to distract himself from the grief of his son dying.

  • The Bible: In Proverbs 30:8-9, a Believer wants neither poverty nor riches, but only their daily bread (ie, 3 square meals a day), on the grounds that a rich man might become arrogant in that wealth, and a poor man might become a thief, but a man whose needs are fulfilled by God knows who puts the food on the table.
  • Ciaphas Cain: In "Death or Glory", Cain spends the book hoping to get a mug of "tanna" (which nobody outside the ice world of Valhalla has heard of, let alone has) — and wanting to survive, but that's his usual raison d'etre. As luck would have it, after leading a massive army of survivors to safety and ending the Ork infestation by flanking them and killing their chief in single combat the first unit he meets up with is a Valhallan regiment...
  • Discworld:
    • In Night Watch, the revolutionaries want a slogan that encapsulates what they're fighting for. After asking each of their members what they want, the result is "Truth, Justice, Reasonably-Priced Love and A Hard Boiled Egg". This culminates in a tradition of leaving a hard-boiled egg on Sergeant Keel's grave.
    • A Running Gag of the series is Rincewind the Wizard wanting to be left alone, preferably with a large plate of potatoes.
  • The Elder Empire: Shera is unquestionably one of the greatest assassins to ever live, capable of following someone in an empty room without them noticing, and has made an absurd amount of money for her guild. The Great Elders are actually scared of her, and act openly to try to kill her on several occasions—something that they normally only ever did with the two-thousand year-old God-Emperor. What does she want? To take a nap. She does her jobs with such terrifying skill and efficiency mostly because if she gets everything right on the first try, her bosses will let her go to sleep.
  • The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy all Arthur Dent wants is to sort out his lifestyle and have a nice cup of tea. Ford just wants to get drunk and dance with girls.
  • I Want My Hat Back: The Bear's only goal is to get his hat back. Murdering the thief who stole it is secondary and only happened after he realises it was stolen, not lost.
  • jPod: John Doe left the militant lesbian second-wave anarcho-feminist commune where he was raised because he wanted to have a door. The commune considered doors to be symbols of the male desire to isolate and confine women, and forbade them outright.
  • All that the hobbits really want in The Lord of the Rings is to continue living in peace in the Shire. Unfortunately, the local Dark Lord has other plans. It is also the main reason why Frodo and Sam were able to resist The One Ring's influence for so long, as it had very little to actually tempt them with.
  • Les Misérables: Little Cosette thinks that there would be nothing better in the world than to have a doll of her very own. Of course, Jean Valjean brings her the doll she's wanted — she at once clasps it and names it "Catherine."
  • My Next Life as a Villainess: All Routes Lead to Doom!: Having died as a teenager in her previous life, Katarina has resolved to dying of old age in this one, specifically to become an old woman sitting in a rocking chair, staring at the sunset with a cat on her lap.
  • A Necklace of Fallen Stars: Kaela just wants to be able to tell stories and live how she wishes.
  • Orlando: A Biography: Bonthrop's main desire in life is to sail around Cape Horn, again and again and again. He often shipwrecks and survives — he's another one of those people who lives for centuries.
  • Red Dwarf: All Lister would really like to do, besides slobbing about, is end up happily married to Kristine Kochanski with two kids (called Jim and Bexley). While stuck in Better Than Life, which traps people with their deepest desires, Rimmer sees this, and is baffled by the idea that this is all Lister wants out of life, compared to Rimmer's own insanely self-indulgent fantasy.
  • The Scavenger Trilogy: Poldarn wants to stay dry and not have people try to kill him. He doesn't generally achieve even this goal.
  • Stick Dog: The goal of Stick Dog and his friends in each book is usually to get whatever piece of food they smell.
  • The Stormlight Archive: In Edgedancer, Lift just wants to sample all of Yeddaw's famous ten types of pancakes. Of course, being Lift, while she's there she decides to check in on Nale, the horrifyingly dangerous man who has been trying to kill her for months—so that she can steal his dinner. At the very end of the novel, when Lift discovers that Yeddaw actually only has nine types of pancakes (the tenth is metaphorically left out for their god), she threatens to call Nale back under the assumption that he'll kill them all for false advertising.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Babylon 5: The Centauri are a planet full of scheming aristocrats, all of whom want power and the majority of whom are after the big chair. Except for Vir Cotto, who naturally, becomes Emperor.:
    Vir: All I ever wanted was a good job! A small title, nothing fancy... A wife I could love. Maybe even one who could love someone like me. I never wanted this
  • Blackadder The Third: Baldrick's life goals revolve entirely around the acquisition of turnips. If he had a million pounds, he would buy a large turnip in the country and raise a family of little turnips.
  • Glee: In the first season, Rachel sees Quinn as the Alpha Bitch who feels entitled to steal her Love Interest. As it turns out, for all her popularity, Quinn has very modest and realistic goals for herself, and doesn't believe that Rachel would be happy with the same life.
    Quinn: I get Finn, you get heartbroken. And then Finn and I stay here and start a family. I'll become a successful real estate agent and Finn will take over Kurt's dad's tire shop.
  • Killing Eve: In the first season finale, Eve finally confronts her foe, Villanelle.
    Eve: What do you want? Honestly. Don't be a dick.
    Villanelle: Normal stuff. A nice life. Cool flat. Fun job... Someone to watch movies with.
  • Kung Fu (1972): The reason Caine is on the run from the Chinese authorities: Master Po had one ambition: to visit a specific city. It's a small ambition but he still admonishes himself for having it — as a Shaolin Master, he shouldn't have any ambitions. Sometime after Caine graduates from Monk School, he encounters his old master in that city — he finally got his wish. At that moment the emperor's nephew comes by on his palanquin, shoving Master Po off the road and (eventually) killing him. Caine kills the emperor's nephew in a fit of rage and then must flee China.
  • The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power: Initially, Halbrand just wanted to be a blacksmith in Numenor and lead a peaceful life until Galadriel "pushed him to height that no one else could have". But since Halbrand is also everybody's favorite Dark Lord, how much this would have lasted, is to anyone's guess.
  • The MythBusters are testing the proposition that two interleaved phone books are inseparable by rational means. This culminates in chaining the books to a pair of tanks. Just before the mayhem starts, Jamie quips "I just wanted to make a phone call."
  • Red Dwarf: For all he is a pompous, cowardly, slimey, weaselly smeghead, Rimmer's most deeply held desire as he admits when incredibly drunk is simply to love someone and just be loved in return.
  • In the nineties Fox sitcom Roc, the title character is a Baltimore garbageman whose fondest dream is to someday live in a semi-detached house. He knows he'll never have enough money for a fully free-standing house, but he'd be happy having at least one wall with nothing on the other side.
  • The Walking Dead: Ozzy, the leader of the Highwaymen, is very interested in watching the movie that's premiering at the Kingdom, so he agrees to help keep everyone safe during the fair. Sadly, he never gets the chance to watch the movie due to Alpha beheading him.
  • The Westerner: Dave's only goal in life is to make enough money to buy himself a modest ranch.

  • "Next to You, Next to Me" by Shenandoah. The narrator is uninterested in material possessions like mansions, caviar, gold, and diamonds. He just wants his girlfriend to come for a ride in his pickup truck, where they will eat barbecue chicken and listen to their favourite radio stations.

  • In Cauldron Quest, The Simurgh's ultimate goal, for which she's been manipulating things since she first showed up? Attend a sleepover.

    Tabletop Games 
  • In the introductionary fiction for the second edition of Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay, a young man named Franz is combing through the monster-infested ruins of his home town. We eventually find out that he's looking for his father's shoemaker tools, in the hopes of earning a living as a cobbler to the refugees outside the town. It serves as an early hint of how character progression works in the game note  as well as showing that player characters in the setting often have to work very hard to achieve very modest goals.

  • Little Shop of Horrors: Audrey, who lives on Skid Row, sings an "I Want" Song, "Somewhere That's Green", which details her grand fantasy... of living a stereotypical suburban life. Granted, her dream is leagues better than her current life in the slums, but its modesty is played for comedy due to how kitschy and normal it seems to the viewer.
  • In Les Misérables, (in English) Cosette sings about her Castle on a Cloud, where she wants to go — and the best thing there is that her mother will be waiting for her. In French, the song is about a doll in the shop window that Cosette wants so badly.
  • Early in My Fair Lady, Eliza Doolittle sings the following;
    All I want is a room somewhere,
    Far away from the cold night air,
    With one enormous chair,
    Oh, wouldn't it be loverly.
    Lots of chocolate for me to eat,
    Lots of coal making lots of heat,
    Warm face, warm hands, warm feet,
    Oh, wouldn't it be loverly.
  • The Prom: Emma only wishes to bring her girlfriend Alyssa to her senior prom and dance with her, like any other normal teenage girl. Because she's in a small conservative town with a Heteronormative Crusader (who's also total Control Freak, to boot) in charge of the PTA, this goes over like an atom bomb, thus starting the main plot. Even as the whole mess grows into a political media frenzy, Emma repeatedly emphasizes that she never wanted to become the face of a movement, or bring some sort of uproar to her town; she literally just wanted to take her girlfriend out on a date, and while she expected some resistance, she never imagined it'd become the big deal everyone's making it.
  • Played for camp in Reefer Madness: The Musical:
    I've taken a life,
    Been stripped to my essence,
    And to think all I wanted was swing dancing lessons!
  • Vladimir and Estragon are just Waiting for Godot to arrive. He doesn't.

    Video Games 
  • Final Fantasy:
    • Final Fantasy VI: Secret character Gogo the Mimic joins your party because they're bored.
    • Final Fantasy IX: Quina joins your party just to travel the world and sample new foods.
    • Final Fantasy XIV: In Shadowbringers and Endwalker, Zenos comes back from the dead and helps Fandaniel trigger the Final Days for no further purpose than to fight you once again. His eventual Heel–Face Turn towards the end of Endwalker is because it finally occurred to him that you're not gonna give him that as long as you're busy stopping the apocalypse, so he turns around and helps you defeat the Endsinger, after which you finally fight him one last time, and he dies happy.
  • Night in the Woods: A somewhat tragic example with the song "Die Anywhere Else". The singer isn't wishing for a great life, or even much of a life at all; all they want is to be somewhere better than their dead-end hometown.
    I just wanna die anywhere else
    If only I could die anywhere else
    So come with me, let's die anywhere else
    Anywhere... just not here...
  • No More Heroes: Although perhaps not a lofty goal, Travis initially only joins the ranking battles because Sylvia said she would bang him if he made it to the top. She also only seemed to have been manipulating him and he was simply stupid and horny enough to fall for it.
  • Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door: Koops joined your team to impress his girlfriend.
  • Portal: Played for Laughs. GLaDOS believes (or wants you to think that she believes) that test subjects can be motivated to complete extremely dangerous test chambers just by promising them that they'll get cakenote  if they succeed. In reality, of course, they're actually motivated by the fact that they're locked in, and completing the tests is the only apparent way out.
  • The Sims 2:
    • It's possible to change a Sim's Lifetime Aspiration (instead of "Money", "Family", "Romance", etc.) to "Grilled Cheese" by misusing a reward from the University expansion. Characters with this aspiration seek to cook grilled cheese sandwiches, eat grilled cheese sandwiches, and talk to people about grilled cheese sandwiches.
    • The Pleasure Aspiration was introduced in the Night Life expansion. It revolves around simple joys, such as wearing pajamas, drinking "juice", and jumping on the couch.
  • Street Fighter IV: Makoto wants simply to get money to open her dojo.
  • Vindictus: Even though it is obviously not true, everyone assumes that the rookie completes the quest to become a paladin for some tea. Which Brynn never even gives you.

    Visual Novels 
  • Daughter for Dessert:
    • All that the protagonist and Amanda want to do is rescue their business from failure.
      • Becomes subverted in Heidi’s endings, when the protagonist decides to franchise the diner.
    • After college, the protagonist wanted a run-of-the-mill industrial engineering job. Due to offshoring, he couldn’t even get that.
  • Full Metal Daemon Muramasa: The goal of the Big Bad Hikaru, despite having the world ending power of Ginseigo at her disposal, simply wishes for her father to without any limits or bias reveal if he truly loves her. The problems come from how she intends to accomplish this, by basically turning the whole world into a slaughter-fest until she and her father are the only ones left and thus standing as the sole bastion of morality, all based on a misguided belief of what a God is. In the end she finds her answer when her true father, Kageaki, invokes the Law of Balance. A law that stipulates that for every time you kill with hate, you must kill an equal amount in love. Thus by killing the one he hates the most, himself, the law then requires him to claim the one he loves the most, this being Hikaru. She then dies happy after finally knowing that her fathers love is true.
    "Of course... The Law of Balance. Its curse... is proof of love. All this time... I was right. There was love! Then all is well! I have what I wanted! The bond that was severed... Restored!"
  • Hakuouki: While the other Shinsengumi captains are occupied with grand ambitions and high ideals which prove unattainable, Harada Sanosuke admits in his route that his dream is to marry a woman he loves and live a peaceful life with her. This simple and humble dream is one of the reasons that Sanosuke has the most unequivocally happy ending in the game, where the others' endings are more bittersweet.
  • Hatoful Boyfriend:
    • What is the Spoiled Brat heir Sakuya Shirogane Le Bel's lofty lifelong dream? He wants to play and study music openly, and see how far he can go as a musician. If he pursues this goal he is disowned and cast from the family, as he knew would happen.
    • The player character's wishes at Tanabata: Take Over the World (twice, either openly or ruling from the shadows), win the Mad Love of a fallen angel, or... become an artist. Naturally, the last earns you points with Sakuya.
    • Subverted by Oko San. He just wants pudding... but he's extremely particular about his pudding, and anything not up to standard is grounds for a temper tantrum.

    Web Comics 
  • Hero Oh Hero: Burk's quests so far have consisted of finding a toilet and acquiring a giant pig for a mount (or to get the pig he found/defeated to grow giant again).

    Web Original 
  • As Texts From Last Night puts it:
    423: I know. I just don't want anything else. I have no other desire. Just a ham sandwich.
    1-423: I honestly don't know what to make of that.
    423: A ham sandwich would be nice.
  • For the entirety of Old Man Henderson's rampage, the only thing he really wanted was to have his lawn gnomes back. Sure, he leveled several churches and blew Hastur up for them, but he just wanted his lawn gnomes back. (Henderson's player just wanted the GM to stop railroading the game.)

    Web Videos 
  • Freeman's Mind postulates that all Gordon Freeman really wants during his haphazard trek through Black Mesa is to go home and get stoned. He really couldn't care less about the whole alien invasion and marine retaliation if they would only stop shooting and/or biting him.
  • The only reason Scarecrow becomes one of Dr. Arkham's Co-Dragons in Season 2 of The Joker Blogs is because he wants his old job and office at Arkham Asylum back, the latter of which was given to Harleen. Although, in Episode 6, he thinks the whole plan has taken too bad a turn and is causing him more trouble than he's willing to put up with, so he decides Screw This, I'm Outta Here.

    Western Animation 
  • Avatar: The Last Airbender: At the end, retired General Iroh is at the head of the army that conquers Ba Sing Se, the largest and best-defended city in the world. He is, rather unexpectedly, reconquering it from his own people. What are his plans once the job is done? He's going to re-conquer his tea shop, and play pai sho every day.
  • Bob's Burgers: Bob is practically defined by humble goals. The series as a whole is about him running a burger restaurant and making the burgers he creates. Any given episode can have his goal range from minding his own business to buying cranberries for Thanksgiving, to cooking a turkey to being in a cooking contest. His family and friends' zaniness and neuroses, however, often cause these to go horribly wrong. Sometimes things work out for Bob but often he ends up not so well off.
  • Duck Dodgers: In the episode "A Lame Duck Mind" when they go into Dodgers' mind, they discover his greatest desire is to own a bait shop. Specifically a failing bait shop. He does have a hot trophy wife randomly there, but he doesn't seem interested in her.
  • DuckTales (2017): Violet Saberwing has friends with goals of popularity, luxury, or respect. When they get into her dreams though, all she wants is more time to read and learn.
  • Ed, Edd n Eddy: The boys get up to some impossibly elaborate schemes in the name of scamming the other kids of their money, so one wouldn't be faulted for assuming they're saving up for something big, like a college fund or opening a business. All they really wanna do with this money, however, is stock up on jawbreakers. Granted, these suckers are bigger than their own heads, but still, they're only twenty-five cents each.
  • The Flintstones: Fred Flintstone and Barney Rubble were only going out for some groceries; they weren't expecting to have to help the enigmatic superspy Madame Yes defeat the sinister Doctor Sinister.
  • The Looney Tunes Show: Bugs Bunny seems really excited about ordinary things like going to jail or attending a high school reunion. It turns out that Bugs has done so many amazing things all throughout his life (like going to space and becoming president of Mexico) that he wants to do ordinary things for once.
  • Love, Death & Robots: In the episode "Zima Blue", the brilliant, reclusive android painter Zima Blue started out his life as a simple pool-cleaning robot, used as a test bed by his roboticist owner for new upgrades until he became a sentient Do-Anything Robot. After travelling the galaxy from edge to edge searching for the answers to life's questions, creating truly incredible murals, earning acclaim and wealth from everyone, he decides to jettison all his upgrades in the end and go back to being a simple pool-cleaning robot, though he has the sentience now to appreciate his simple job.
  • Megas XLR: All Coop wants to do with his giant robot is to cruise around, pick up chicks, and have fun smashing stuff. One episode has him craving a Mega Slush, but an annoying evil robot keeps destroying the places that serve them.
  • Rick and Morty: Jerry used Rick's meeseeks box to help him get two strokes off his golf game. Guess what that led to.
  • The Simpsons: In "Two Cars in Every Garage and Three Eyes on Every Fish", Mr. Burns blames Homer for the demise of his gubernatorial campaign and vows to make sure all his dreams go unfulfilled. As Homer worries about what will happen, Marge cheers him up by reminding him that his dreams are so simple and universal, that no one man, not even someone as powerful as Mr. Burns, can take them away.
  • South Park: The plot to many episodes involves the kids wanting something relatively mundane — say, getting the latest gaming system, or returning a rented video — but getting waylaid by assorted weirdness. In the case of Cartman, the means to getting to that goal might get a little intense.

    Real Life 
  • One of "Bubble Boy"'s greatest wishes in life was to have a bottle of Coca-Cola. He never got it.
  • Harriet Richard Ames wanted a Bachelor's degree. A few weeks after she turned 100, and the day before her death, she received her diploma at her hospice bedside.
  • A North Korean refugee (who now lives in South Korea) stated in an interview that as a child in the '90s (when the food crisis was particular bad due to the famine), he always wanted to have a fried egg with rice.
  • Kickstarter is famous for crowdfunding projects asking for six figures or even millions but there are some projects with small funding goals. Some are craft Kickstarters asking for US$1-100, such as pottery and carved smoking pipes. Myq Kaplan had a Kickstarter to fund his podcast with a goal of just US$1; not surpisingly, he made his goal and exceeded it by nearly pulling in US$1,000.